Scott Pruitt gave “super polluting” trucks a gift on his last day at the EPA. A court just put it on hold.


Republican House member once lamented you can’t call women “sluts” anymore

Jason Lewis, congressman from Minnesota, has some thoughts on “sluts.”

“Are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”

Jason Lewis, the US representative from Minnesota’s Second District, said this in 2012: “Are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”

CNN went through hours upon hours of Lewis’s former radio show, which he hosted from 2009 to 2014 before he was elected to Congress in 2016. Apparently, Lewis had thoughts he wanted to share with his listeners about “sluts.”

“It used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women,” Lewis said. “Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”

Lewis’s comments come to light during an election year when the #MeToo movement and the wins of Democratic women are defining the campaign. He will face a Democratic woman in his reelection campaign, Angie Craig, which is expected to be competitive after Lewis narrowly defeated Craig in 2016.

Here are Lewis’s comments, apparently originating in the Sandra Fluke-Rush Limbaugh controversy, in full from CNN:

“Well, the thing is, can we call anybody a slut? This is what begs the question. Take this woman out of it, take Rush out of it for a moment,” Lewis said in a March 2012 episode. “Does a woman now have the right to behave — and I know there’s a double standard between the way men chase women and running and running around — you know, I’m not going to get there, but you know what I’m talking about. But it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?”

There was more. Lewis brought up Madonna. She’s had a lot of sex and dressed provocatively, he observed and then asked: Would society not have once called her a slut? From CNN:

“Now Limbaugh’s reasoning was, look, if you’re demanding that the taxpayers pay for your contraception, you must use a lot of them and therefore, ergo, you’re very sexually active and in the old days, what we used to call people who were in college or even graduate school who were sexually active, we called them sluts.”

He continued, “Especially if you want somebody to pay for it. Now you know, obviously that’s a stretch. It was meant as an aspect of entertainment radio.”

He continued, “But have we really got to the point where you can’t refer to Madonna as a slut without being sued? I mean, Madonna has had a series of lovers, as have many in Hollywood. Now in the old days, what did we call this? Madonna dresses up in these sorts of prostitute-like outfits on stage, and she goes there and she sings and she shows half of her body. What did we call those people? 30 years ago? 40 years ago? 50 years ago? You can’t do that today, it’s too politically incorrect?”

“This has all been litigated before, and as Congressman Lewis has said time and time again, it was his job to be provocative while on the radio,” Lewis’s campaign manager Becky Alery told CNN.

Lewis narrowly won his first election in Minnesota’s Second District, which covers areas directly southeast of St. Paul. In 2016, he beat Democrat Angie Craig by 2 points. Cook Political Report rates his 2018 reelection campaign as a toss-up. He’ll again face Craig, a health care executive at St. Jude Medical.

The former radio jockey and author has also had some thoughts to share about slavery. He said this on audio commentary for a book he wrote, per the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

In fact, if you really want to be quite frank about it, how does somebody else owning a slave affect me? It doesn’t. If I don’t think it is right, I won’t own one, and people always say ‘well if you don’t want to marry somebody of the same sex, you don’t have to, but why tell somebody else they can’t. Uh, you know if you don’t want to own a slave, don’t. But don’t tell other people they can’t.

That was reported the February before Lewis was elected to Congress. He won anyway. Now he’s up again in November.

source: vox

How the National Prayer Breakfast plays into the indictment of an alleged Russian spy

Jeff Sharlet, journalist and author.

Journalist and author Jeff Sharlet on the National Prayer Breakfast, Maria Butina, and the group that calls itself “the Family.”

Last week, under the guidance of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, the Department of Justice indicted 12 suspected Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of interfering in the 2016 presidential election. This week, arrests continued. Maria Butina, a Russian graduate student at American University and gun rights activist, was accused of “acting as an agent for a foreign government.”

Yet according to the Department of Justice affidavit, one of the most striking elements of Butina’s case was the venue she allegedly chose to exert influence: the National Prayer Breakfast, a longstanding Washington tradition. The event has been attended by every president since Eisenhower and has about 4,000 attendees — influential policymakers and foreign dignitaries alike — annually.

At the 2016 and 2017 events, Butina allegedly met with unnamed American officials and “very influential” Russians, and seems to have successfully attempted to broker meetings between figures in these groups.

It’s striking when you consider that something more insidious than prayer is understood to be taking place at the breakfast, according to Jeffrey Sharlet, an associate professor of literary journalism at Dartmouth College.

In his 2009 book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, Sharlet chronicled the influence of a Christian organization known publicly as “the Fellowship” (and internally as “the Family”), the founders and administrators of the National Prayer Breakfast. The Family — of which Sharlet reports Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are members — is an intensely powerful organization, whose specific vision of Jesus as the ideal “strongman” governs their political theology and who have found, in strongman-sympathetic President Trump, an ideal vessel for their beliefs.

“What’s interesting about Trump is that he’s not really a believer, yet he’s put together the most fundamentalist Cabinet in US history,” Sharlet told me Wednesday. “There has never been one like this. It’s the most Family-friendly.”

According to Sharlet, the Family frequently uses the National Prayer Breakfast, and the week surrounding it, as a backdoor recruiting and diplomacy tool, often using the events around the breakfast as a means of backchannel engagement with lobbyists and foreign governments that organizers feel share its “strongman” approach, without formal government oversight.

I spoke with Sharlet by phone about the Family, the National Prayer Breakfast, and why an alleged Russian agent like Butina might in fact be welcome there. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Tara Isabella Burton

So who exactly are “the Family”? Let’s start there.

Jeffrey Sharlet

It is [technically] called the Fellowship, referring to itself internally as the Family. It is the oldest and arguably most influential Christian conservative organization in Washington. And the reason some people may not have heard about it is because it’s also the most secretive.

They believe they are most effective if they don’t seek publicity, and they minister to those who may consider what they call it, the “up and out” or “key men” in positions of influence, if they minister to them privately beyond the public eye. So unlike the traditional Christian right that really wants to be on TV, getting attention, these guys practice what George Bush Sr. praised as a “quiet diplomacy.”

Tara Isabella Burton

And how did this group come into existence? Are they associated with one particular school of Christian thought?

Jeffrey Sharlet

They are nonsectarian, generically evangelical. They began in 1935 when the founder, a man named Abraham Vereide, had what he believed was a vision from God. He was a fairly prominent Christian leader of his time, ministering to business leaders and government figures.

But he felt that God spoke to him and told him that Christianity may have been getting it wrong for 2,000 years, with this focus on the poor and the weak and the down and out, and what God actually wanted was for Abraham — and those whom he chose — to minister to those whom he called the “up and out,” the “key men.”

He had this idea that if you could win a few key figures in positions of power for their idea of Christ, well, then they would reorganize society on that basis and you would have just kind of trickle-down fundamentalism. Always central is Jesus as they understand him, as a figure of strength.

Tara Isabella Burton

How does this connect to the National Prayer Breakfast specifically? The breakfast is often, I think, seen by outsiders as being something kind of innocuous. But there seems to be a more specific connection between the breakfast and this one organization.

Jeffrey Sharlet

The Family is the organizer of the National Prayer Breakfast. The Family created the National Prayer Breakfast as a recruiting device. Back in the ’40s and ’50s when they were planning it, their goal was to normalize this idea of prayer at the center of American political life, so much so that people would just take for granted. They created it in 1953 when Eisenhower agreed to attend. They had tried with FDR and Truman, who both said no.

Eisenhower said no at first as well. But he owed an electoral debt to Billy Graham, who, working with the Family, had helped swing the evangelical vote for Eisenhower. This was back when Southern evangelicals did not vote Republican. So he attended. The idea was, “Look, I’m going, I don’t want any press. I don’t want this to become a tradition.” Suddenly, you have this tradition.

And so every president since has gone. Most of Congress goes. Lots of world leaders go. The Family uses it as the centerpiece — the one public event they do in the year. But it’s only one-tenth of 1 percent of the iceberg [of their work]. As they describe it, it is a recruiting device to bring those whom they are interested in into what they describe as prayer cells, where they meet. And I’m quoting here [from Family documents]: where “you meet Jesus, man to man.” Meanwhile, around the prayer breakfast — which is just one event on the first Thursday of February — is a week-long lobbying festival.

You get the oil industry hosting events. You get defense contractors hosting events. So you look at the list of foreign leaders who are coming again and again from around the world. They’re there for access to American power; they’re there to cut deals.

Michael Cromartie, a longtime conservative religious leader in Washington and no lefty, was critical of their lack of transparency. He says, “Look, I’m sure people use this to gain entrée. And entrée they do get.”

[Another source says] the National Prayer Breakfast is used by the Family to circumvent the State Department. They are arranging meetings with a real who’s who of nasty figures — the kind of government leaders from foreign nations who might not otherwise have access to American power but [who] the Family, in pursuit of their strongman vision of Jesus, thinks are actually anointed by God for leadership.

Tara Isabella Burton

This brings us, then, to Russia, and to Maria Butina. What is her connection to all of this, and why is it so significant?

Jeffrey Sharlet

Well, Maria Butina, according to the affidavit from the Department of Justice, used the Prayer Breakfast twice. Prayer Breakfast organizers met with her in Moscow, and I think they helped her determine the [Russian delegation] guest list. I mean, I think one thing we want to pay attention to is there’s a lot of emphasis on [the idea that] Maria Butina sort of infiltrated the conservative American organization to gain access [for Russian interests]. It’s worth paying attention to the ways in which they helped her. They actively helped her; it’s not like she just showed up. They saw her as access too.

Look at things from the Family’s perspective. It’s exactly the kind of work they do, right? Tensions are strong between the United States and Russia. The family imagines itself as a peacemaker. This vision of peace is a strongman vision. The two strongmen should meet and hammer things out, and then Jesus will be there, shaping [things].

So they’re going to look at Russia and they’re gonna say, “That’s exactly who we want to reach out to,” and they’re going to do that in the context of this longstanding and really growing American Christian right love affair with Putin. They see him as modeling Christian leadership.

So from their perspective, they’re not helping a Russian spy — they’re helping bring peace between two worthy and strong leaders who were chosen by God.

That’s the other thing you have to remember about them. They think if you’re in power, you’re in power because God puts you there, not any kind of voters.

Tara Isabella Burton

Can you tell me more about the Family’s particular conception of Jesus? They certainly have a very particular reading of him.

Jeffrey Sharlet

It’s a wildly unorthodox reading of Jesus. You can’t get much further away from the Jesus most of us understand, whether we’re believers or students of religion, than some of the analogies that they like to use. They frequently compare Jesus to some of the worst strongmen of history. Hitler is a favorite comparison; they also compare him to Mao, to Pol Pot.

The point they are trying to make is not that Jesus is a fascist or communist but that Jesus is strong. Jesus is a strongman. And what he offers is a covenant that they describe as “Jesus plus nothing.” Another phrase they’ve used in the past is “totalitarianism for Christ.”

It’s worth emphasizing that most Christian fundamentalists don’t embrace this either. Most Christian fundamentalists believe that Jesus came for “the sheep.”

But the longtime organizer at the National Prayer Breakfast [Doug Coe] said, “Nope. Jesus was there for the wolves.” He said, now, you could go and you could minister to the sheep, but that takes forever. What if you went to the wolves? And not just the wolves but the leader of the pack. A few years ago, in fact, an evangelical writer named Lance Wallnau used that parable as the case for Donald Trump.

Most Rapture believers [and most evangelicals] are premillennial. They believe there’s going to be the sort of apocalyptic moment and then Christ is going to come and rule for a thousand years. The Family fits into a different point of view, called postmillenialism. And this is this idea that Christ isn’t coming back until we establish a world Christian order for a thousand years. The Family uses it to pursue what they describe as the long-term goal of 200 world leaders, united quietly through the Family and their devotion to Jesus as the Family understands him.

source: vox

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Trump loyalists may be purging career officials at the VA

A hospital run by the Department of Veterans Affairs in Illinois.

Some of the employees supporting the VA secretary have more than 20 years of experience.

More than a dozen employees in high-level positions at the Department of Veterans Affairs have recently been reassigned to lower-level positions — and a new report says it’s part of a purge by President Donald Trump’s loyalists.

According to the Washington Post, acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke and a small team of Trump political appointees are reshuffling staffers they perceive to be disloyal to Trump and his agenda for the VA, which is responsible for providing health care and other federal benefits to US military veterans.

In some instances, the Post story says, the reassigned staffers are career civil servants who have served in critical support roles for more than 20 years.

Which means that, if confirmed, Trump’s new VA secretary, David Wilkie, will not benefit from the help of experienced employees who know the ins and outs of their jobs and the department. This is potentially a huge problem, as it’ll make Wilkie’s job of fixing the US government’s second-largest bureaucracy that much harder.

The VA is defending its actions, though. “Under President Trump, VA won’t wait to take necessary action when it comes to improving the department and its service to Veterans,” Curt Cashour, a VA spokesperson, told the Washington Post. As of now, there’s no indication Wilkie had any role in the reassignments.

Why the VA “purge” may be happening

It’s likely this “purge” traces back to the ouster of the last VA secretary, David Shulkin, four months ago.

Shulkin wasn’t doing enough for conservatives’ tastes to overhaul and privatize the VA. Instead, he stayed in line with the preferences of most veterans groups, taking a deliberate pace toward reform rather than trying to drastically change the agency with a big push for privatization.

Trump’s transition team tried to staff the VA with hardcore right-wingers who were committed to privatization. They began to question Shulkin’s loyalty to Trump because he wouldn’t change his preferences. Trump eventually fired Shulkin in March after a year of infighting.

O’Rourke — a former Trump campaign staffer and current loyalist — took over for Shulkin. It appears he’s now using his newfound power to remake the VA more in Trump’s image.

It’s unclear what kind of authority O’Rourke will have once Wilkie takes the VA’s helm, or if Wilkie will reverse any of O’Rourke’s personnel moves.

But one thing is clear: People seem to be losing their jobs at the VA because of their political views, not their competency. That’s a bad way to operate any government agency.

source: vox

A new House bill would bar companies from using nondisclosure agreements to hide harassment

Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) introduced a bill to outlaw NDAs and other legal tools companies use to silence female workers.

The bill has bipartisan support (!), but it probably won’t go far anyway.

Republicans and Democrats agree on few things these days. But some members of Congress on both sides of the aisle seem to agree on this: Businesses should not be able to hide claims of sexual harassment against them from the public, and they should not force female workers (or any workers) to stay silent about it.

On Wednesday afternoon, a bipartisan group of representatives will introduce a bill that would bar employers from requiring workers to sign nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements. These clauses are common in job contracts, essentially making it illegal for workers to say bad things about a company, or from discussing workplace disputes, such as sexual harassment claims.

The bill, called the EMPOWER ACT, would outlaw that practice entirely, according to the office of Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), who is sponsoring the bill with Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), and Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE). The bill would also require publicly held companies to provide employees with sexual harassment training, and to disclose the number of workplace harassment claims it settles each year and the amount paid out. The Senate introduced its own version of the bill last month.

The bill is a direct response to the waves of sexual harassment complaints that have come to light in the #MeToo era, and in particular, to the measures companies have used to keep women from talking about it for years.

“These clauses that perpetuate the culture of silence should not be permitted,” the bill sponsors wrote in a summary that was shared with Vox. “This practice has allowed employees who harass to quietly settle, essentially paying for the privilege to abuse.”

Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) have been around for nearly a century, though they were originally used in business contracts to protect trade secrets. By the 1980s, they were standard language in white-collar job contracts and legal settlements. Because NDAs revolve around secrecy, the scope of their use was relatively unknown.

Then the Weinstein scandal broke. The New York Times’ report on sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein shined a spotlight on how companies use these clauses to hide potentially illegal behavior toward women. Employees who worked at the company were required to sign nondisparagement clauses, and women who complained about harassment had to sign NDAs in legal settlements, which allowed Weinstein to continue abusing women under the radar.

Other women who have tried to share their stories of harassment at work have realized that they can’t. Former Fox News contributor Gretchen Carlson, who accused Bill O’Reilly of harassment, was one of many women at the company who signed these clauses, though she decided to speak out anyway (Fox News has not sued her for violating her contract).

Women who violate these agreements could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, depending on the details of the contract. Many of Carlson’s colleagues at Fox remained anonymous in describing their experience to journalists, fearing they would be breaching their contracts.

No data exists on how many companies require workers to sign these agreements, but they have become increasingly common in hiring contracts in the tech industry.

Since the Weinstein story broke, the flood of #MeToo stories that have followed has put pressure on Congress to do something about widespread sexual harassment of female workers. Members of Congress — mostly women — have introduced a number of bills to address the issue, from the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act to the Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing Act.

Their efforts haven’t gone far yet, as Republican leaders have not put the bills to a vote. The closest Congress has come to action was passing Senate and House bills to amend the Government Accountability Act, which would require members of Congress to report sexual harassment settlements they are involved in, and which would prohibit them from using taxpayer money to settle those claims. While the Senate and House passed their own versions of the bill, efforts at a compromise final bill have stalled.

The EMPOWER Act may languish too, or it may put more pressure on Republican leaders to vote. Last month, Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) and Kamala Harris (D-NY) introduced the Senate version of the bill.

But so far, nothing has happened. Even though both bills have bipartisan support, they would need to get support from House and Senate leaders too. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan have shown little interest in tackling sexual harassment.

source: vox

Trump somehow still doesn’t understand NATO

President Donald Trump spent time at NATO last week. He still doesn’t understand it.

He doesn’t seem to grasp the importance of collective defense or even how it works.

Just a week after rattling NATO countries in Europe, President Donald Trump once again put America’s commitment to the alliance in doubt on Tuesday night.

In an interview with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, Trump equivocated on whether or not the US would come to a NATO ally’s defense if attacked, called the people from Montenegro “very aggressive people,” and worried aloud that protecting Montenegro might unleash a third World War.

There were two key parts of the exchange. Here’s the first:

CARLSON: NATO was created chiefly to prevent the Russians from invading Western Europe. I don’t think you believe Western Europe’s at risk of being invaded by Russia right now, so what is the purpose of NATO right now?

TRUMP: Well, that was the purpose, and it’s okay. It’s fine, but they have to pay.

And here’s the second:

CARLSON: Membership in NATO obligates the members to defend any other member who has been attacked. So let’s say Montenegro, which joined last year, is attacked: Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that?

TRUMP: I understand what you’re saying. I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people.

CARLSON: Yeah, I’m not against it — or Albania.

TRUMP: No, by the way, they have very strong people — they have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations, you’re in World War III. Now I understand that — but that’s the way it was set up. Don’t forget, I just got here a little more than a year and a half ago. But I took over the conversation three or four days ago and said, “You have to pay.”

Carlson’s questions were entirely fair ones to ask (more on that in a minute). But Trump’s responses were deeply disturbing. Here’s why.

Trump didn’t steadfastly commit to NATO’s collective defense — again

At the heart of the NATO military alliance is a provision known as Article 5. That says that an attack on one NATO country is to be considered an attack on all the countries — and therefore that all the member countries are obligated to come to the defense of whoever is attacked.

This is why NATO allies — yes, including Montenegro — are fighting alongside the US in Afghanistan to this day. The US invoked Article 5 after 9/11, and NATO countries kept their promise and came to America’s aid.

And, to use Tucker Carlson’s example, if a country were to attack Montenegro — which became a NATO ally in June 2017 under Trump’s watch — the US would be treaty-bound to defend it.

But Trump made it pretty clear that he’s not wild about that fact, and only begrudgingly said he’d go along with it as long as they pay their fair share of defense spending — an issue he brought up over and over again at the NATO summit in Brussels last week.

And this isn’t the first time Trump has done this, either. In May 2017, Trump refused to commit the US to Article 5 during a meeting with NATO allies. But two weeks later, Trump reversed course, saying in impromptu remarks that the US would abide by the provision.

Trump did seem to endorse NATO as a whole during Carlson’s interview when he said the alliance’s original purpose is still “okay.” Still, Trump’s outward skepticism about NATO worries many.

“His rhetoric has unsettled allies, empowered Russia, and undermined Alliance solidarity,” Amanda Sloat, a European security expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told me.

Trump still doesn’t get how NATO works

Trump said that if Montenegro got aggressive with another country, presumably Russia, then World War III would break out because the US would be obligated to defend it, thus dragging the US into a major war with Russia.

What Trump misses is that the US doesn’t have to defend Montenegro if that country starts a fight, only if it’s attacked. NATO is a defensive treaty. If you start an unprovoked war, that’s your decision, and no one in NATO has to help you at all.

So even if Montenegrins were, as Trump said, “very aggressive people” — whatever the hell that means — the US wouldn’t have to lift a finger to help them.

The fact that Trump doesn’t seem to understand that is beyond disturbing. If this were his first day in office, maybe it would be understandable. But it’s not. Trump has been in office for a year and a half. He’s met with NATO allies as a group not once but twice — including spending two days straight talking to them just a week ago.

There is no reason why he shouldn’t have that down pat at this point.

Carlson’s line of questioning was totally fair. It’s Trump’s responses that are the problem.

Debates about NATO’s usefulness have raged for decades, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, as have concerns about NATO’s expansion over the years to include more and more countries. (There a really smart Twitter thread on that here if you’re interested.)

It’s certainly reasonable to ask the sitting US president to explain why America’s sons and daughters should be obligated to fight to protect Montenegro, or why the US should risk a potential nuclear war with Russia just to defend Estonia.

It’s Trump’s responses to this question that are concerning here. Instead of laying out the case for NATO being in America’s national security interest (and there is a case to be made on that), Trump makes it clear that he doesn’t actually get why the hell NATO matters at all.

If you’re a NATO ally wondering whether the US president will have your back if shit goes down, that’s not the most reassuring thing to hear.

source: vox

Poll: only 28 percent of young voters say they will certainly vote in the 2018 midterms

Young voter turn out could make a big difference in the 2018 midterms

Millennials are pretty reliable Democrats, but unreliable voters.

Democrats are winning over younger voters by huge numbers, but as a highly contentious voter turnout-dependent midterm election inches closer, there’s a serious question whether these young Democrats will come to the polls.

A recently released poll from Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic conducted in June showed only 28 percent of young adults, ages 18 to 34, say they are “absolutely certain” they’ll vote in midterms, compared to 74 percent of seniors.

In a year when Democrats are hoping an energized base can deliver them massive gains in Congress — and possibly the majority in one or both chambers — this poll, on its face, should give Democrats some pause.

Of course, this is only one poll. There are other surveys with varied results; a recent poll conducted by the Associated Press and University of Chicago’s NORC found that 32 percent of young voters would certainly vote, and 56 percent were likely to. Another poll by Cosmopolitan magazine and Survey Monkey found that 48 percent of young voters were “absolutely certain” they’d vote in the midterms.

And it’s actually a big improvement for Democrats compared to past midterms. In the 2014 midterms, when Democrats lost control of the Senate, only 13 percent of young voters participated, according to the census.

But the takeaway is still serious: While Democratic voters are more enthusiastic to vote in the 2018 midterms than in past off-year election cycles — and recent polls show they’re more eager to get out to the polls than Republicans — young voter turn out could make the difference in 2018.

“Right now the ‘blue wave’ is being powered by suburban professional women, but to fully capitalize on 2018, Democrats need to energize young voters and voters of color,” Dave Wasserman, of the Cook Political Report, said.

Republicans have a millennial problem. Luckily for them, millennials don’t consistently vote.

Young people haven’t been a reliable voter base for Democrats.

To be clear, people ages 18 to 34 overwhelmingly vote for Democrats and prefer Democratic candidates even if they are registered as “independent.” Democrats have a 35-point advantage with young women voters in the 2018 House midterm elections so far, according to a CIVIQS surveys. That lead narrows to 10 points for young male voters.

As Vox’s Li Zhou wrote, a recent Pew Research Center survey found young women’s preference for Democratic congressional candidates is significantly higher than that of women of other age groups:

Women overall are likely to lean blue, with 54 percent supporting or leaning toward the Democratic candidate in their district this fall, versus 38 percent who favor the Republican candidate. But 68 percent of young women are choosing Democrats, compared to 24 percent who prefer Republicans.

This is in stark contrast to older voters, who are more likely to vote Republican than young voters. Younger voters are also notably much more diverse than older voters.

But the problem for Democrats is, young people just don’t always vote.

“They are volatile in term of their turnout,” Wasserman said. “They are likeliest voters to drop out of the electorate — them and Latino voters … for Democrats there is a lot of room to grow.”

Even a jump from the 13 percent that participated in 2014 to the 28 percent surveyed could have a serious impact on elections. Wasserman says part of the reason Trump won in 2016 was the young voters didn’t turn out — and those that did cast ballots for third-party candidates. Young voter turnout in 2016 was slightly lower than 2012, when President Barack Obama’s support among millennials saw a significant drop from his first election in 2008.

Now, as young voters appear more engaged in the Trump era than they were under George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, they could make a big difference in the so-called “blue wave” this midterm season.

source: vox

Trump says he misspoke about Russia’s election meddling. Twitter isn’t buying it. 

President Donald Trump discusses his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting with House Republicans.

Trump said he didn’t see any reason why it “would” be Russia, but now he’s claiming he meant to say “wouldn’t.”

President Donald Trump claimed he misspoke about whether he thought Russia meddled in 2016 presidential elections — and Twitter is having a field day with it.

Here’s what happened: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump met in Helsinki on Monday, where Putin publicly denied claims that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election.

Standing next to Putin, Trump said he didn’t have reason to think Russia meddled with the election — contradicting the findings of US intelligence agencies. “I don’t see any reason why it would be [Russia]” that interfered in the 2016 election, Trump said.

However, on Tuesday, after massive backlash from scores of US politicians and general outrage in the media, Trump walked back these comments, claiming he had intended to say “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be [Russia].”

Many people on Twitter aren’t buying his excuse. Especially because Trump waited an entire day to correct himself.

Even Richard Marx, the singer behind the 1980s soft rock hit, “Right Here Waiting,” weighed in.

Late night hosts also joined in and took jabs at Trump, including Jimmy Kimmel, who has been an outspoken critic of the president.

And though it’s easy to ridicule Trump’s excuse that he simply meant to say “wouldn’t,” the joke, it turns out, may be on the American people.

source: vox

Senators are slamming Trump’s Putin meeting, but they aren’t going to do anything about it


Ideas have been floated, but consensus seems unlikely.

Democrats and Republicans agree that something needs to be done about Russia in the wake of this week’s shocking Trump-Putin summit and the president’s baffling subsequent walkback of his comments. But few can agree on what exactly that should be, which probably means any efforts are doomed to failure.

So far, members of both parties have widely condemned Trump’s press conference on Monday and expressed support for a hearing with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“There’s a possibility we may well take up legislation related to this,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said of a bill addressing sanctions from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) during his weekly Tuesday press briefing. This bill is also among the measures that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer backed on Tuesday.

It’s unclear, however, how far this collective outrage will stretch. In addition to the Rubio-Van Hollen bill, multiple measures have been proposed to address the issue of Russian election interference, and it remains to be seen whether any have the full-throated support they need to ultimately pass.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Intelligence Committee — which is conducting its own investigation into Russian interference — says that lawmakers are still parsing the best way forward.

“That’s what we’re trying to work on. There’s questions around resolutions, although a Senate resolution — 98-2, I believe, reinforcing NATO — that didn’t carry a lot of weight with Trump,” Warner said. “We’re kind of in uncharted territory where we’ve got someone that is acting so irresponsibly in a way that’s got so many national and international consequences that Congress has to act to, in a sense, restrain this president’s flexibility because we can’t trust what he says or what he does.”

Senators are floating a lot of ideas — though it’s uncertain whether any will garner enough support to pass

While a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing with Pompeo is now on the books — and keenly backed by both Democrats and Republicans — it’s unclear what other concrete measures addressing Russian interference will gain momentum. (This hearing is dedicated to scrutinizing the administration’s broader approach to Russia, with Democrats particularly interested in the one-on-one portion of the Trump-Putin meeting.)

A growing number of lawmakers have floated ideas for measures that would address Russian meddling.

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Monday indicated interest in a resolution that would reiterate support for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and emphasize congressional confidence in the 12 indictments that were recently issued. “I think we should pass a resolution on the heels of all this,” Flake said, per the Hill.

“I have legislation to name Russia a state sponsor of terror. I’d like to see that legislation passed,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) on Tuesday. “I’m going to be pursuing that and push back any way I can.” Gardner’s bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), calls on the State Department to evaluate how Russia is classified.

Rubio and Van Hollen’s bill, which was name-checked by both McConnell and Schumer, has been picking up some buzz. It would impose rapid sanctions on Russia if the director of national intelligence determined that it had interfered in US elections again.

When asked whether lawmakers would be able to collectively get behind one single measure, Gardner pointed out that many of these bills already boast bipartisan sponsorship. Menendez also said he was optimistic about Republicans supporting a legislative effort on the issue.

“It is my sincere hope that they will, because it’s a time for patriotism over partisanship,” he said. “If Barack Obama had done what President Trump did during the summit, I would be peeling them off the ceilings.”

Bipartisan backing will be pivotal for any legislation to advance, notes Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who supports the Rubio-Van Hollen bill as well as legislation from Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and James Lankford (R-OK) that addresses cyberthreats to election infrastructure.

“I think we need a powerful bipartisan bill that tells Russia if they mess with our elections again, we’re going to be imposing lots of damaging strategies against them,” Merkley said. McConnell hasn’t exactly made a strong commitment to ensuring that happens.

Trump keeps creating problems like this, and Congress has struggled to solve them

Trump’s unwillingness to forcefully denounce Putin — despite his attempt to halfheartedly ameliorate the situation on Tuesday — is just the latest instance of the president putting the onus on Congress to address a problem he exacerbated. Much like the DACA fight and the recent family separation debacle, Trump’s actions are ratcheting up the pressure on legislators.

Also much like those fights, this is another policy area in which Congress could get mired in both procedural complications and disagreement about how best to address the problem — resulting in little actual action.

As Rubio himself told Politico, his bill might be racking up support, but it could be a while before it winds its way to the floor. “Once the Supreme Court nomination gets going, it’s going to be difficult,” he said.

source: vox

Court documents provide new details about alleged Russian spy Maria Butina


Trump tweets that haters would rather see him go to war than play nice with Putin


The president tries to fire back at critics with a false choice.

President Trump walked back his Putin press conference comments on Tuesday, claiming that his grammar was incorrect and he meant to say he didn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be Russia meddling in US elections.

But on Tuesday night, Trump somewhat undermined his scripted apology, tweeting that the meeting between “President Putin and myself was a great success, except in the Fake News Media!”

Then on Wednesday morning, he followed up by tweeting that “people at higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki,” and the fact that he and the Russian leader got along “truly bothered many haters.”

He wasn’t done: “Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia,” he tweeted a few hours later. “They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!”

Trump, in general, does not like to concede to his critics, and it’s not surprising that he’s bristling a bit at the pushback (and bad reviews) from his Russia trip, even from his close allies and Fox News. But his hyperbolic defense — war, or work with Putin — is questionable.

Some foreign policy experts have argued that Putin’s interference in the 2016 elections is akin to an act of war — updated to the 21st century. At the very least, the bipartisan consensus is that Russia’s attempts to insert itself into America’s electoral process represented an act of aggression and a threat to democracy.

The US government — and Trump’s own administration — has retaliated with sanctions, for example. And beyond the election interference, tensions with Russia have escalated geopolitical conflicts in places such as Syria in recent years.

But as the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser pointed out before the Helsinki summit, the purpose of Trump’s meeting with Putin wasn’t even really clear, as the two sides hadn’t agreed to any “deliverables” ahead of the sit-down. Trump and Putin then met privately, so, unless something leaks, the contents of their nearly two-hour discussion are unknown. And besides a vague Russian pronouncement about an “agreement on international security” and Trump’s assertion that Russia will help on North Korea, it’s not clear what tangible objectives were achieved.

Maybe that will change in the coming days. Dialogue with Putin isn’t a bad thing — but not pressing Putin on areas where he’s hostile to US interests and on his penchant for election meddling is. Diplomacy isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition — and getting along with an adversary for the sake of getting along isn’t exactly a foreign policy position. That’s what Trump’s critics are pushing back on.

What’s more, Trump’s elevation of Putin — as a world leader on par with that of the US — is exactly what the Russian strongman wanted. It’s not winning war, exactly, but it’s a victory for Putin nonetheless.

source: vox

Denaturalization, explained: how Trump can strip immigrants of their citizenship


A black candidate made a rap album. His white opponent says it makes him unfit for Congress.

Antonio Delgado campaign video.

Antonio Delgado says his critics are trying to “otherize” him from white voters in New York’s 19th Congressional District.

Antonio Delgado, a black 41-year-old lawyer, is competing against incumbent Republican Rep. John Faso in the highly competitive congressional race for New York’s 19th Congressional District. But as a new report from the New York Times notes, the contest has been consumed by a debate over Delgado’s former career as a socially conscious rapper named “AD the Voice,” with Faso and conservative groups arguing that the Democrat’s old music makes him unfit to represent the district.

“Mr. Delgado’s lyrics are offensive,” Faso told Times reporter Astead Herndon, pointing to reports that highlight lyrics where Delgado used terms like “ni**a” and critiqued America’s founders as “dead presidents” who “believe in white supremacy.”

Delgado, who would be the first nonwhite representative of the NY-19 district if elected, counters that his past lyrics are being taken out of context in an attempt to “otherize” him from voters in the 19th District, which is one of the whitest in the country, according to the Times.

As the debate continues, the conversation is showing the complexities of race and identity in political contests, particularly in those where the candidate for a majority-white district is a person of color. The criticism largely hinges on perceptions and stereotypes of rap music, particularly those that define rap music and black culture as not being representative of mainstream America. And for a black prospective Congress member for a majority-white district, the focus on his rap lyrics puts his “otherness” in stark contrast with the lives and experiences of local voters.

Delgado’s critics argue that his old lyrics are “anti-American”

In 2006, Delgado released his first and only album, called Painfully Free. The album offered social commentary on a number of topics, from the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War to criticizing capitalism. Delgado, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law grad, would later leave music for a legal career.

The candidate, who beat several other Democrats in the district’s June primary, began facing strong criticism for the old music earlier this month. A piece in the New York Post said that Delgado “spewed politically provocative and racially charged lyrics a decade ago,” before detailing lines from his first album.

Faso quickly seized upon the news. “Mr. Delgado’s lyrics paint an ugly and false picture of America,” he said in a statement earlier this month.

The criticism of Delgado’s music as “anti-American” has also spread to other conservative groups. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that aims to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives, aired a radio ad calling the music a “sonic blast of hateful rhetoric and anti-American views.”

“Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values?” Gerald Benjamin, a friend of Faso’s and director of the Benjamin Center at State University of New York at New Paltz, told the Times.

“People like us, people in rural New York, we are not people who respond to this part of American culture,” he added.

Delgado argues that his music simply spoke to pressing social issues, which he would also call attention to in Congress. “It was different contexts, different tactics, but same desires and same outcomes,” he told the Times. “Issues like income inequality, issues like gender equality, issues like the pollution of our environment and climate change — these are all issues that I talked about back then as an artist that I’m now talking about.”

Some groups are calling out Faso for focusing on the lyrics. Last week, more than a dozen clergy members sent a letter to Faso, calling the politician’s comments “a thinly veiled, racist attack for the purpose of insinuating fear in the voters in our district.”

For now, it is unclear exactly what will happen in the district, which went for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but broke for Donald Trump in 2016. The race has been rated a toss-up by political analysts. A June poll from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said that Delgado was leading Faso by 7 points.

source: vox

The European Union hits Google with a $5 billion fine


This is the second multibillion-dollar fine the EU has handed the company in just over a year.

The European Union hit Google with a $5 billion fine on Wednesday for breaking antitrust laws by pushing device makers using its Android operating system to bundle other Google services on its product. This marks the second time in just over a year Europe has fined the tech giant for anticompetitive practices.

The European Commission on Wednesday said it would fine Google €4.34 billion, or about $5 million, for “illegal practices regarding Android mobile devices to strengthen dominance of Google’s search engine.” It alleges that the Mountain View, California-based company has imposed illegal restrictions on device manufacturers and mobile network operators since 2011 by forcing them to pre-install its apps and services as a bundle, including the Google Search app, the Google Chrome browser, and the Google Play Store for apps, and preventing them from selling devices running on alternative versions of Android that aren’t Google-approved. That, the commission said, unfairly pushes users into Google’s browser and search products and blocks competition from others.

The commission rejected Google’s argument that bundling its search and browsing apps with the Android operating system is necessary to monetize its investment in Android. And it said that Google made illegal payments to certain manufacturers and network operators to ensure the exclusive pre-installation of Google Search across Android devices.

“Our case is about three types of restrictions that Google has imposed on Android device manufacturers and network operators to ensure that traffic on Android devices goes to Google search engine,” Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, said in a statement. “In this way, Google has used Android as a vehicle to cement the dominance of its search engine. These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

Google must implement the remedies suggested by the European Commission and end the practices deemed illegal within 90 days or face penalty payments of 5 percent of its global daily revenue for each day it’s not in compliance.

Europe has traditionally been tougher on big tech than the United States

The conversation about big tech has picked up in the United States in recent months in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and renewed attention on whether tech giants such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have been allowed to grow too big and too fast unchecked. But historically, it’s been Europe that has often taken the lead on addressing big tech and the antitrust and privacy issues that go with it.

A European court in May 2014 ordered Google and other search engines operating in Europe to allow individuals the “right to be forgotten,” letting them ask sites to delist certain search results relating to their name. In mid-2017, the European Commission hit Google with a $2.7 billion fine for unfairly favoring its own service over those of its rivals. It has also gone after Facebook, Intel, and Microsoft for antitrust violations.

In May, the EU enacted the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, a new privacy law to make sure users know and understand the data companies collect about them and consent to sharing it.

Google is still appealing the $2.7 billion 2017 fine and said it would appeal Wednesday’s decision and $5 billion fine as well. “Android has created more choice for everyone, not less,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition.”

Google CEO Sundar Pichai authored a blog post published on Wednesday arguing that Android has created more choice. The European Union disagrees.

source: vox

Why “fake news” is an antitrust problem


The “do what you want” theory of politics


Why embracing “Abolish ICE” and Medicare-for-all won’t doom the Democrats.

An unspoken assumption of most political punditry is that the political positions taken by, and the policies supported and enacted by, politicians play a significant, perhaps decisive role in determining the outcomes of elections.

This is the premise of basically every piece of commentary about, for example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th District. To fellow democratic socialists, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is evidence that ideas like Medicare-for-all or a job guarantee aren’t just popular in opinion surveys: They can win elections. Even radical-sounding ideas like abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement might fly! To conservatives and squishy moderates, Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of a 10-term incumbent is proof that Democrats are willing to commit electoral suicide for the sake of ideological purity.

Each of these arguments has specific problems. But all of them share one big issue: They dramatically overestimate how much the actual issue positioning of candidates matters for how people vote.

What I want to propose is a null hypothesis for political punditry: Outside of truly extreme proposals, there’s basically no plausible position a politician or political party can endorse or enact that will have a meaningful impact on their likelihood of retaking political power. The US has for decades had a stable system where liberal and conservative policy coalitions (which have sorted out under the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively) semi-regularly alternate in power, with long periods of divided rule and gridlock in the middle. Dramatic shifts in the ideological makeup of both parties during that same period did not upset that alternation of power. It continued apace.

The upshot of this phenomenon is that parties should be a little less nervous about sticking to their guns and arguing for what they believe, whether or not it polls well. Call it, if you like, the “do what you want” theory of politics.

It’s possible to push the “do what you want” theory to ridiculous extremes. Obviously if the Democratic presidential candidate were to suddenly start calling for dissolving Congress in favor of decentralized rule by workers’ soviets, that would probably hurt them. And on certain issues, particularly race, American voters’ baseline apathy tends to fade. There’s a reason even the most left-wing Democrats don’t tend to emphasize the need to integrate public schools through busing anymore. That’s something that white voters will wake up to stop.

But as a baseline position, I think assuming a null effect is a more reasonable guess than assuming that voter preferences are heavily influenced by candidates’ issue statements. We just have too much evidence that this isn’t how voters really make their decisions.

Instead, we see evidence that Democrats and Republicans exchange power at regular intervals, in spite of massive changes in the beliefs of those parties’ elected representatives. Maybe it’s time to argue that parties should adopt positions by arguing for those positions on the merits, not because they’re electorally useful or mandatory.

What we know about American voters

My basic mental model is that the typical American voter thinks about national politics and elections with roughly the frequency I think about professional football (I’m borrowing a bit here from the political scientist Jonathan Bernstein).

I have a football team that I root for; I maybe check in on standings two or three times throughout a season. I watch the Super Bowl. But I don’t typically watch other games, I couldn’t name many players (even on the Seahawks), and if you asked specific questions about football strategy, about which players should be traded or whether the Seahawks should focus more on developing their wide receivers or their running backs, I wouldn’t really be prepared to give you an answer.

And that’s fine! I have other stuff going on that it turns out I’d prefer to spend my time on. And while the stakes of electoral politics feel startlingly real if you’re a naturalized citizen facing a vociferously anti-immigrant government, or a black family in Flint, Michigan, whose water has been poisoned, or a trans woman forced by a state government to use men’s restrooms, for Americans outside marginalized communities, politics can feel like a game to which you can be indifferent.

Tufts University political scientist Eitan Hersh has described much political activism in 21st-century America as a kind of hobby. “The stakes in political activity can sometimes seem low. In a large republic, an individual’s contribution is almost always non-pivotal. Policy in the U.S. often changes very slowly,” Hersh writes. But that’s what makes it an ideal hobby for some people: “Low stakes are what make hobbies restorative … they are a release from the pressures of work and other obligations.”

A natural corollary of something being treated as a hobby is that other people can simply choose to not have that hobby. This is the camp into which most American voters seem to fall, and if you’re in this category, then you’re not going to be obsessively watching to see if, say, a candidate supports abolishing ICE or Medicare-for-all or what have you. You just don’t care enough. It’s not your hobby.

“Most people have strong feelings on few if any of the issues the government needs to address and would much prefer to spend their time in nonpolitical pursuits,” University of Nebraska political scientists John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse write in their book Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work. “The people as a whole tend to be quite indifferent to policies and therefore are not eager to hold government accountable for the policies it produces.”

There’s tons of research reaffirming this finding. The University of Michigan’s Donald Kinder and Louisiana State’s Nathan Kalmoe show in their book Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public that most Americans don’t really have stable ideologies in a way that matters. This isn’t an original insight of theirs; they view themselves as replicating the work of Philip Converse, who laid out a similar argument in 1964.

American voters aren’t down-the-line liberals or conservatives the way the people they elect are. Astonishingly, what a respondent said their ideology was — liberal, conservative, moderate, etc. — had “little influence over opinion on immigration, affirmative action, capital punishment, gun control, Social Security, health insurance, the deficit, foreign aid, tax reform, and the war on terrorism.” Ideology seemed to matter on LGBTQ rights and abortion, but even that went away after they controlled for religion.

Kinder and Kalmoe looked at a study that asked the same people questions about politics in 2000 and 2002. The finding was even more astonishing. “If you asked an average voter in 2000 whether they were liberal, moderate, conservative, or none of the above, their answer was only 63 percent predictive of what they’d tell you two years later,” my colleague Ezra Klein summarizes. That’s wild. That’s a two-year period — if people have durable political beliefs, you should expect 90-plus percent of them to say they’re liberal in 2002 if they said they were liberal in 2000. That’s not what happens.

Berkeley political scientists Sean Freeder, Gabriel Lenz, and Shad Turney conducted a related study measuring stability in views on individual policy questions, and examining whether voters were able to correctly match policies with politicians. They find that only 20 to 40 percent of Americans “hold stable preferences on salient economic public policies.” In one mid-’90s survey they review, only 19 percent of respondents could correctly answer five simple questions about where the parties stand on abortion, defense spending, government services/spending, guaranteed jobs, and whether the parties were liberal or conservative. Another 18 percent got four of the five right. Most respondents, however, were fairly ignorant.

This perspective is not unanimous among political scientists; UChicago’s Anthony Fowler has issued a forceful paper arguing that policy voting — people holding coherent opinions about what policies they want and voting based on those opinions — is more common than the above research indicates. But the weight of the evidence suggests, to me, that voter ignorance is the norm and that relatively few voters have the kind of stable policy views you’d need to have to vote on the basis of candidates’ issue statements and voting record.

“Numerous studies have demonstrated that most residents of democratic countries have little interest in politics and do not follow news of public affairs beyond browsing the headlines,” Vanderbilt’s Larry Bartels and Princeton’s Christopher Achen conclude in their 2016 book Democracy for Realists. “They do not know the details of even salient policy debates, they do not have a firm understanding of what the political parties stand for, and they often vote for parties whose long-standing issue positions are at odds with their own.”

The best reason to think issue positions matter (and why I disagree)

The finding that most voters don’t have stable opinions on policy questions is not, on its own, enough to prove that politicians can hold whatever policy opinions they want without any electoral consequences. It could be the case that the 20 to 40 percent of people who do have stable opinions on economic issues are swing voters who use those preferences to determine the outcomes of many elections.

But that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. Michigan State professor Corwin Smidt has shown that the share of “floating voters” — voters who switch their party allegiance from one election to another — has plummeted in recent decades. In 2012, only 5.2 percent of Americans voted for a different major-party presidential nominee than they had in 2008; from 1952 to 1980, the average rate was 12 percent, indicating that swing voting has fallen by more than half (Smidt’s study predates the 2016 election, when there appears to have been a greater number of swing voters). Smidt doesn’t find that rates of floating voters were higher among the politically ignorant, but it’s still a quite small group, and the share of it that is highly informed and has stable preferences is smaller still.

The best evidence I’ve seen that a critical mass of policy-sensitive voters exists, such that parties would be making a huge mistake by ignoring their candidates’ policy positions, comes from Stanford political scientist Andrew Hall. In two papers, one solo-authored and the other with Stanford’s Dan Thompson, Hall looked at a number of different closely contested primaries for US House elections, in the first paper from 1980 to 2010 and the second from 2006 to 2014. He specifically analyzed “coin flip” elections, where the moderate candidate barely defeated the extremist or vice versa.

His big finding was that a party picking the extreme candidate hurts that party — a lot. In the 1980-2010 study, he found that nominating an extremist cost the party about 9 to 13 percentage points of the vote, and reduces the odds of victory by 35 to 54 percentage points. “These,” Hall writes with almost hilarious understatement, “are large effects.” His study with Thompson clarifies that this seems to happen not because swing voters are turned off by a candidate’s extreme positions, but because that candidate’s presence mobilizes the other party’s base more than it mobilizes that of the extreme candidate.

These are extremely well-designed studies, and I learned a lot from them. But I’m not sure they prove that extreme positions on specific issues themselves hurt candidates. Hall estimates ideology by using candidates’ donors, assuming that candidates with similar donors have similar viewpoints. This is a clever methodology, pioneered by Stanford’s Adam Bonica, but it has its limits.

As Hall and Thompson discuss, this measure doesn’t correlate perfectly, or even particularly well, with actual roll-call voting in Congress. The donor-based ideology measures might tell you something about which faction of donors are backing a candidate — whether, say, a Dem is getting Wall Street backing rather than union backing, or a Republican is getting Tea Party-linked money or more traditional business interest money — but that doesn’t always tell you precisely how they’re going to vote. That makes the data less than determinative when you’re trying to figure out if taking individual positions, of the kind that show up on roll-call votes, hurts or helps candidates.

“The goal is not to isolate the ‘causal effect’ of candidate positions, themselves,” Hall and Thompson write. “In fact, it is not even clear that there is such a thing as a causal effect of candidate positions.”

Moreover, these are studies about contested primaries. The finding that an extremist narrowly winning endangers a party in a general election jibes with examples like, say, Tea Party activist Christine O’Donnell defeating moderate Rep. Mike Castle in the 2010 Republican primary for Joe Biden’s Senate seat in Delaware. Given polling showing that Castle would almost certainly win if nominated, it makes sense to think that nominating O’Donnell caused the party’s defeat.

But much current discussion concerns, instead, the choice of incumbents such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to come out for controversial policies like a job guarantee or abolition of ICE or single-payer health care. It’s not clear to me that in the absence of a primary campaign that causes voters to learn to view such positions as “extreme,” such moves would have much of any electoral effect at all. Indeed, the micro evidence on voter behavior makes me guess there’d be little to no impact.

Policymaking in a world of indifferent voters

It’s less precise evidence than that limned above, but arguably the best case for the “do what you want” theory of politics is the mere fact of alternation of power.

“In well-functioning democratic systems, parties that win office are inevitably defeated at a subsequent election,” Bartels and Achen write. “Moreover, voters seem increasingly likely to reject the incumbent party the longer it has held office, reinforcing the tendency for governmental power to change hands.”

There are some exceptions to this rule, in which a party becomes dominant for extremely long periods in otherwise democratic countries — the longstanding dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, the Social Democrats’ rule of Sweden from 1936 to 1976, the Conservative Party’s 1979-’97 period of control in the UK — but in the US, no party since World War II has ever held the White House, or even won the popular vote, for more than three terms in a row.

That is despite the fact that from 1945 to the present, the Democratic Party underwent a dramatic shift toward a more egalitarian stance on race issues, shedding its Dixiecrat base in the process; that it largely abandoned traditional labor politics after the 1984 election; that the Republican Party moved right on race and very far right on economic issues toward a more stridently laissez-faire stance; and that the electorate itself has changed its composition dramatically in demographic terms.

All that — the whole history of post-World War II American politics and the grand ideological shifts of parties it included — was not enough to disrupt the basic fact of power alternating hands. Even when the House was firmly under Democratic control, the presence of conservative Democrats meant that Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan could pass their agendas. That implies that parties can undertake rather large ideological shifts without jeopardizing their chance of one day, eventually, taking over again.

In a world where this is the reality, and where the public is largely indifferent to public policy, mass politics and attempts to affect public opinion become a lot less important. Instead, the main lever of influence is lobbying of party elites. Those elites might mistakenly believe that public opinion matters and so public opinion polls become a compelling way to lobby them, but ultimately, if you want to abolish ICE, you don’t need to persuade the American people. You need to persuade Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Shifting public opinion might help with that, but it’s only a means to an end.

Conversely, if you want to dramatically cut taxes on corporations, you don’t need the American people on your side — and by God, the Republican Party did not have the American people on their side when they cut corporate taxes in 2017. Insofar as Americans cared, they hated the idea of giving big companies a tax break. But Republicans did it anyway. Convincing Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to give it a go was, it turned out, enough for corporate tax cut advocates.

Ryan and McConnell might or might not have thought that the cuts would be popular. They might not have cared at all. They probably knew that majority parties are always doomed in the midterms, and decided to do what they wanted anyway, since their time in power would be brief. Democrats could learn a lot from that example.

source: vox

Former CJN, Katsina-Alu Dies in Canada, Supreme Court Confirms


The Supreme Court on Wednesday confirmed the death of former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloysius Katsina Alu.

The deceased who hailed from Ushongo in Benue was the CJN from Dec. 30, 2009, to Aug. 28, 2011.

The Senior Special Assistant to the CJN on Media, Mr. Awassam Bassey, in a statement in Abuja, said the CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen confirmed Alu’s death in Canada.

“The death of the former numero uno of the Nigerian judiciary was confirmed while Justice Onnoghen was in Canada.

“A few of our colleagues have called this morning (from about 3:30 a.m. Montreal Canadian time) to seek confirmation of the death of former Chief Justice Katsina-Alu.

“I can confirm that the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Mrs. Hadizatu Mustapha, sent me a WhatsApp message to that effect about an hour ago confirming the death of the former CJN.

“I have just called the Chief Registrar to confirm that this is indeed the situation.

“The Personal Assistant of the former CJN called her at 3.00p.m. Nigerian time to inform her of the demise’’, Bassey had quoted Onnoghen to have said.

The CJN, Onnoghen and other justices of the Supreme Court and Chief Judges of some states are in Montreal Canada attending a conference.

Katsina-Alu, born Aug.28 1941, was sworn in as the CJN on Dec. 30, 2009 by his predecessor Justice Idris Kutigi.

Katsina-Alu’s tenure lasted from the day of his swearing-in to Aug. 28, 2011.

There was some controversy over the ceremony since in all previous ceremonies the Oath of Office was administered by the President.

However, President Umaru Yar’Adua was unavailable to carry out that task on account of ill health, thereby providing room for Justice Kutigi to conduct the exercise.


UN Marks Mandela’s 100th Birthday, Says Struggle For Equality Continues


nlc-nigerian-leaders-nelson mandela

The UN will mark 100 years since the birth of the late anti-Apartheid activist, Nelson Mandela, on Wednesday, taking stock of what the organisation termed his vast legacy for mankind.

“Nelson Mandela was a towering global advocate for justice and equality”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his video message for Nelson Mandela International Day.

The Day is annually observed on July 18, which was inaugurated by UN General Assembly in November 2009, in recognition of Mandela’s global contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

Mandela, who died in 2013, was the first democratically-elected president of South Africa and the country’s first black head of State, after he had been in prison for 27 years on charges of sabotage before being released and eventually elected president.

“He continues to inspire the world through his example of courage and compassion. Nelson Mandela was held captive for many years. But he never became a prisoner of his past”, Guterres said.

The UN chief noted that Mandela poured his energy into reconciliation and his vision of a peaceful, multi-ethnic, democratic South Africa.

“Rarely has one person in history done so much to stir people’s dreams and move them to action,” the UN chief said adding: “That struggle for equality, dignity, and justice continues.”

In December 2015, the General Assembly decided to extend the scope of Nelson Mandela International Day to also promote humane conditions of imprisonment and to encourage societies everywhere to treat prisoners as a continuous part of society by adopting the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules”.

The Rules added important safeguards, including an absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment and clear restrictions on the use of solitary confinement, instruments of restraint and intrusive searches, as well as detailed guidance on prisoners’ rights to equivalent health-care services.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said a nation should be judged by how it treats its lowest citizens, not the highest ones.

“Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison in the course of his struggle for justice. He knew better than anyone that ‘no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails.

“A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones’”, the UNODC chief said.

Fedetov said his office would assist all countries in translating these rules into action, to promote humane conditions of imprisonment and ensure no part of society is forgotten.

“Nelson Mandela International Day 2018 marks 100 years since the birth of a true hero who left the world a better and more just place than he found it,” Fedotov said. (NAN)